We all have dozens of routines we go through daily, and for the most part, we do them with a blind unconsciousness that is sometimes startingling. Here are some examples: You get up, make and drink your morning coffee completely oblivious that a new day has dawned. You drive to work and upon arriving, ask yourself how you got there. You remember none of it. You make a meal, do an exercise routine, read the paper or pay your bills … all without paying more than a sliver of attention … just enough to get the job done and sometimes, avoid injury.
And what about those routines you go through at work … answering a phone call, dealing with a client's needs or coaching a staff member. Sadly we often do those things without being conscious as well. The results: we end up making more mistakes, and often, leave ourselves, our customers, co-workers and staff members dissatisfied without really knowing why. It's no wonder so many of us come to a certain point in life and ask ourselves, "Is that all there is?" And yet the quest for "more" never satisfies for more than a few short hours or days either.
But I've rediscovered recently that any routine can be transformed into a ritual, and by doing so, it is possible to transform what looks quite ordinary into the something extraordinary. And that, as the poet said, "makes all the difference."
Just what is a ritual and what difference can it make in your life – personal or professional? By definition, a ritual is a set of practices that usually has religious meaning. The approach to them is intentionally reverent. In our daily lives, a ritual can be anything we choose to bring an attitude of conscious reverence to. Have you ever watched how the traditional Japanese or British ritualize the drinking of tea. Tea is not simply a drink to be consumed so you can get the caffeine boost you need to hurry up and get on with your day. Drinking tea is a very special part of the day, and because the preparation and presentation of the tea is as significant as its consumption, tea drinking takes on a very different spirit for those who do it routinely.
Now imagine for a moment going through the motions of handling a customer issue with the kind of attention to detail, focus, and presence the Japanese or British bring to their tea rituals. Imagine preparing and eating meals with that conscious awareness of having a "sacred" experience instead of rushing through mindlessly to get on with the next thing. Imagine exercising and staying present to the incredibly complex series of motions our bodies go through in performing even a simple movement, instead of being hooked up to an iPod or TV set to "distract" us from the experience. Just imagine …
This week I invite you to experiment with creating some rituals for yourself. Pick an activity that you do "routinely" and see if you can transform it into a ritual. Pay attention to how you feel before, during and after performing it. For help in how to transform even the most mundane chores (think paying bills, doing laundry, driving to work) into a ritual, consult Alexandra Stoddard's book, Living a Beautiful Life.
I'm convinced that if we could bring even a fraction more awareness and reverence to our daily routines, thereby creating more rituals for ourselves, that life for many of us would take on a freshness, a beauty, a fullness we can hardly imagine.
Start right now: print this out, make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, pause to savor the experience of it all, and begin creating a ritual out of a routine. And as always, enjoy the journey!
Quote of the Week:
"Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance towards the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point." ~~ Harold B. Melchart